Who am I?
I thought I knew.
A few diseases turned everything upside down.
Before I got sick, I would have said…
I’m an East Los Angeleno who moved to Orange County when I was young. My soul kept longing for the city, so I returned to Los Angeles for college (go Bruins!) and then joined the bustle of working downtown. Realizing my true heart was for kids, I went back to school and became a high school teacher, coach, and student council advisor. That was my dream job.
I love sports and have dabbled in many of them. Soccer emerged as my favorite, and some might say that my alter ego came out when I was goalkeeping for UCLA.
I am prone to adventure, laughter, spontaneity, and silliness.
I love new restaurants, fun recipes, a good party, and a long walk in a rainstorm. My best night out would involve dancing for hours even though rhythm isn’t my best asset.
I love music but forsook my first love of singing when I was 11 (more on that later).
I love people. All people. Even if they don’t love me.
I wear my heart on my sleeve even though I’ve been warned against it.
I love hard.
I hurt deeply.
I ache over injustice.
I want to make a difference.
Like you, I’ve had my fair share of hardship.
I LOVE LIFE!
Then along came a stomach ache…
In January 2009, I resigned from my teaching job. Not by choice. I was heartbroken. The “stomachache” that began decades ago, was now more than I could handle no matter how hard my athletic-minded psyche tried to overcome it. After countless years of misdiagnoses and being called a hypochondriac, I finally have labels for my battles: polycystic kidney disease, polycystic liver disease, undifferentiated connective tissue disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, gallbladder removal, mercury toxicity, vertigo, partial bowel obstructions, pancreatitis, endometriosis, and a whole host of smaller issues.
My greatly loved days of family, work, and social life quickly transformed into a seemingly endless siege of labs, tests, treatments, procedures, injections, surgeries, physical therapy, and more.
I am no longer a teacher, a coach, or an advisor. I have hardly socialized at all for the last seven years. Most heartbreakingly, we had to terminate our adoption process – my soul’s biggest, aching anguish.
My personality has dimmed from pure exhaustion. Medical bills usurp wardrobe funds, and special diets ban restaurants and treasured family recipes. Pain robs me of my humor, and restricted schedules put a lock on my free spirit and spontaneity.
I rarely feel well enough to put on make-up and straighten my hair. Truthfully, I look like Herman Munster most of the time. But hey, who doesn’t love Herman Munster?
Without my titles, my schedule, my personality, and my style…
I couldn’t even recognize myself.
I have never known myself better.
So then, who am I?
I am no longer what I do.
Nor am I defined by my diseases.
Profoundly, I realized…
I am still me.
In the rawest form of my humanity…
I am a soul.
With a heart.
I am strong at times… and fragile too.
Sometimes I’m uncannily brave, and sometimes I’m gripped by fear in the night.
I have hopes and fears and scars and dreams.
I need purpose.
I want to love… and be loved.
Ultimately, perhaps I am a lot like you.
If I know one thing…
No matter what you do, what you say, or how you feel…
Whether you’re on top of your game or find yourself failing (not a bad thing anyway, actually)…
Whether dressed for the runway or bed-headed in a hospital gown…
Whether it’s chronic disease or some other malady…
The great thing is:
You are still YOU.
Nothing can take that from you.
So uniquely and perfectly you.
And that’s a VERY great thing.
So, what I care most about is…
Who are YOU?
If you don’t mind and are so inclined, please introduce yourself in the comments below. I’d love to learn anything about what you do, what you love, the things you battle, and who you are.
Through the highs and lows, I so look forward to your camaraderie in this journey of LIFE.
I don’t know it all, but I do know that we need each other.
PS.. My nicknames are pronounced “sauce” or “saw-say” which might seem a little odd if I wasn’t so used to them. :)
PPS.. If you’d like to know why this blog got started, check out this post.